Growing Trends in Going Green

Many argue the roots of the U.S. environmental movement, aka “going green.” May 28, 1892, the first meeting of the Sierra Club, founded by noted preservationist John Muir? The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, which revealed the potential health and environmental hazards of powerful chemicals in agriculture and lead to the ban on DDT? April 22, 1970, the date of the first Earth Day celebration? While the origins of the green movement are nebulous, its future is anything but.

According to Jerry Yudelson, leading speaker, author, green building advocate and LEED® Fellow, green building in North America will continue its strong growth in the upcoming year. Mega-trends for 2014 will set the stage for more efficient homes and buildings, and a cleaner, healthier environment.  

Solar modules. The U.S. installed 4,751 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) in 2013, up 41% over 2012 and nearly 15 times the amount installed in 2008.* Residentially speaking, solar power continues to gain ground as the third quarter of 2013 marked the largest quarter ever for residential PV installation.**

Yet that’s just a hint of what’s to come, because more efficient solar modules are on the way. A new mass-produced solar module reached 35.5 percent efficiency in tests, compared to 15 to 20 percent for modules on the market today. In addition, Solar power will continue to make inroads with lower-rise, flat roof buildings.

Here’s an interesting fact: the Appraisal Institute found that solar photovoltaic systems increase market value and almost always decrease marketing time of single-family homes. That’s especially good news for homeowners.

Greening existing buildings. Although an emerging trend for a few years, 2014 will see a greater focus on greening existing buildings. In fact, there will be a switch from certifying new building design and construction to full greening. Homeowners will be looking at ways to make their current structures more environmentally friendly and sustainable; commercial buildings will undergo retrofits and renovations.

Zero-net-energy buildings. The design and operation of zero-net-energy buildings is also “hot” for 2014. Zero-net buildings generate as much power from onsite energy sources as they consume. A new report states that the number of buildings either at or reaching for the standard has more than doubled in the past two years. "We know that green building has hit the mainstream,” says Yudelson. “To distinguish themselves, many building owners and developers are taking the logical next step: getting to zero net energy on an annual basis. Why? The most widespread reason is that more people than ever believe it's the right thing to do."

“Cloud” technology. While not a green initiative, it certainly fits the bill as Internet-based cloud computing increases building and property management efficiency. Green buildings will increasingly be designed and managed by innovative information technologies based in the "Cloud."

Water conservation. As climate changes impact the amount of rainfall and the water supply, there’s anticipation of a fresh water crisis and critical interest in water conservation including recycling of gray water, the relatively clean wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances.

New solar modules, new products and new standards give energy efficiency a powerful makeover in 2014. If this year is any indication of what’s to come, we’re on our way to cleaner living and a healthier planet.

*U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2013.
**GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).